The YES! No Impact Diary: Day 3

You've tried your luck at a day using alternative transportation. Did it work?
Tuesday Transportation

Burn calories, not fossil fuels.

Click here for more stories from No Impact Week.
Click here for more information on Day 3: Transportation.


Bunmi Ishola
Olubunmi Ishola

Dallas, Texas

Olubunmi Ishola is a No Impact skeptic, but she's willing to see if the experiment can prove her wrong.

Kelsea MacIlroy and Muck Kilpatrick
Kelsea MacIlroy and Muck Kilpatrick

Alamosa, Colorado

Follow Colorado couple Kelsea MacIlroy and Muck Kilpatrick as they promote low-impact living in their rural community.

Scott Gast
Scott Gast

Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Former YES! intern Scott Gast navigates No Impact Week in small-town Massachusetts.

Cooper Bates
Cooper Bates

Los Angeles, California

Cooper Bates is on a crusade to introduce no-impact living into family and professional life in Los Angeles.


Ashe Jaafaru

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Follow Minnesota high-school student Ashe Jaafaru's video diary as she takes on No Impact Week.

Molly Eagen
Molly Eagen

Minneapolis, Minnesota

No Impact Man inspired Molly Eagen's graduate thesis on life without oil. Follow her tips this week as she takes on the No Impact Experiment.

Grace Porter 2
Grace Porter

Bainbridge Island, Washington

Grace Porter is going it alone as the sole student at Bainbridge High School to take on the No Impact Week challenge.

Aran Seaman
Aran Seaman

British Columbia, Canada

Sustainability blogger Aran Seaman has done No Impact Week before—and he's back for round two.

Ryan Eisenberg
Ryan Eisenman

Houston, Texas

With the support of his family, Texas teenager Ryan Eisenman is figuring out how to go No Impact in high school.

Deb Seymour
Deb Seymour

Seattle, Washington

No Impact Week is showing aspiring environmentalist Deb Seymour that going green isn't always easy.

Mary Copler
The Chattanooga Prep School Girls

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Three juniors at Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga explore ways to live without the excess amid the demands of teenage life.

Kathy Kottaras
Kathy Kottaras

Los Angeles, California

Mother, teacher, and pilgrim Kathy Kottaras' lyrical take on the inner adventure of going No Impact.

Don't forget to check out our No Impact Week featured blogroll for more great stories, and post your photos on our Flickr page for a chance to win a subscription to YES!

More Day 3 experiences from our readers!

-Sonya Harvey

Knowing that transportation is probably the largest part of most people’s impact, I actually started this action last Thursday in that I decided to ride my bike to my girlfriend’s house in Oakland. I rode across the Dumbarton Bridge to the Union City BART station and took BART to Oakland and then rode up the hill to her house. This also got me out for the afternoon to get some exercise as well. Total travel time was just over two hours.

You can meet people and have a nice conversation while riding a bike. When was the last time you had a nice conversation with a fellow motorist?

I feel a little less impactful driving my car in that I have a diesel car that I run on bio-diesel (my electric MG Midget is not running right now). It gets close to 40 MPG. That said, I always try to do multiple errands if I have to use the car. It is almost a game to see how many errands I can do since I am using the car anyway. I also see if I can do any of the errands on my bike. Biking or using public transit takes longer so you have to account for this, but I really like riding my bike. Besides, you can actually meet people and have a nice conversation while riding a bike. When was the last time you had a nice conversation with a fellow motorist that did not end with the one finger salute? 

To reduce the barriers to riding my bike more, I have my bike set up with lights for riding at night so I don’t have to get home before dark and I have saddlebags on a rack so I have no excuse for not using the bike for grocery shopping or other errands where I don’t have to carry too much. Just this morning I loaded up my drill, some bits, and other tools for doing a job at work. It all fit nicely in the saddlebags. Riding my bike to the Farmers Market is a favorite Sunday morning outing if I am home.

All these good actions are easier when we work with others in a community.

I am glad we have good weather this week, as that will make biking easier. So far I have not started the car once since some time last week. From my previous postings, I have an offer to look at some used but little worn rain gear so this is a possible good outcome for both parties. This points out a very good point, all these good actions are easier when we work with others in a community. Not everyone needs to own one of everything. This is true for almost everything, except for a few things, like ice cream ;-)

The trip home from Oakland last Sunday evening, an interesting story:

Last Sunday I decided to take BART to CalTrain to get home to Palo Alto from Oakland. This would take almost 2 ½ hours but I wanted to try it. The other “alternative” would be to have Serena drive me home as it was the end of the day and the weather could be wet. So I took BART to see how this option works (I am typing this up as I ride on BART, one advantage of taking public transit, you can do other things while getting to your destination).

Interesting thing about BART and my bike: I have a speedometer on my bike that picks up the wheel rotation information wirelessly from the wheel sensor. While I am sitting still on BART, every time the train starts up or slows down, I can read a max speed on my speedometer as high as 70 mph! This is because of the electrical emission on the train during acceleration and when slowing down, due to the regenerative breaking. I also saw speeds as high as 30 mph when just standing on the platform as a train pulled in. I have seen this in other places as well. Parked outside of Palo Alto Hardware for one with the power lines overhead.

We just went over 101 into SF airport and I can see the southbound traffic is running slow. Glad I am not driving out there in the wet weather.

The transfer at the Millbrae BART/CalTrain station was OK. If you don’t leave enough time for this you can miss the train as CalTrain does not wait for BART even thought CalTrain only runs once an hour on the weekends.

CalTrain is slower, unless you catch a bullet train, but you can eat and drink on CalTrain and they have bathrooms as well. On BART, it is a $250 fine for eating or drinking in the cars or on the platforms. If CalTrain were electrified, it would be similar in speed to BART. I have been hoping this would happen but it never seems to make the priority list of transportation projects. CalTrain is also quieter. When BART gets in a tunnel on a turn you can’t even hear yourself think it is screeching so loudly. I think this is due to much deferred maintenance. The older trains on CalTrain are more bouncy but the newer ones are very smooth and quiet. CalTrain also has a few electrical outlets so if you are using a laptop that needs a charge, you can get charged up. I am hoping that wifi comes to both trains soon.

The trains on CalTrain are diesel-electric locomotives where a big diesel engine drives an electric generator that drives an electric motor that drives the train. This mechanical-electric coupling gives the train the ability to start and stop more smoothly and to do this while hauling a very heavy load. Can you imagine trying to let the clutch out on a locomotive while having to move that much weight? You would burn up a clutch everyday trying to run a commuter train. The diesel-electric locomotive might have the same electric emissions on start up and stopping (they have dynamic breaking) as BART but it would be confined to the locomotive only and would not be in every car like on BART. I have not seen this on light rail but it might be similar to BART trains as I think there are motors in every light rail car similar to BART.

For my two plus hour trip, the time on BART and CalTrain is about the same and so is the cost (about $4.50 each) but the BART train went about twice as far. I am glad I brought lights and what rain gear I have as it still looks wet outside.

The ride home from the train station was uneventful as I only reached a max speed of about 15 mph. The roads were wet but it was not raining so that was good. According to my bike odometer my bike went 36 miles on BART while sitting still. This might actually be close to the miles I really traveled while on BART! -David Coale

So I'm trying to prepare for Transportation day. Checked the bus schedule for how else to do my 15 min drive to work. It would entail walk .4 mi to bus stop, catch a bus to transfer point, stand outside in 20 degree weather for 10 min, catch another bus. Total time about 53 min if all goes well and I don't miss any buses. And of course do the same thing in reverse to get home. The trouble with the whole no impact thing is that it puts all the responsibility on individuals, with no emphasis on changing systems, neighborhoods, public transportation... If it were summer, I would try it, but not in January! -Anonymous

I went into the day thinking it was going to be one of the easiest for me, because we haven’t owned a car in years. But I’m not content just to do what we’ve always done. Despite always taking public transit everywhere, here is my list of what more we’re going to do:

  • Skip on escalators/elevators at public transit stations, opting for the stairs. Or at least try to. It’s such a habit, I don’t even remember my commute home yesterday, and therefore am relatively certain I failed this one so far. It might take some time to develop this new habit, so I’ll keep trying.
  • Look into getting a bike (or two) to avoid taking the bus. This will also save on waiting-for-the-bus time, which I’m excited about. Husband and I will still have to take the train, but cutting out the bus and adding exercise will be a good thing. I’m hoping to find one on craigslist or freecycle and will wait it out for a while to see what’s available secondhand before opting to buy one.
  • Avoid flying. This one’s easy because it’s so expensive and such a hassle. We took Amtrak to visit family over Christmas, and it was fun. We’ll definitely be doing that again.
There are lots of areas where public transport is not a viable option or is completely nonexistent. It just plain needs to be given more attention in our country, and we all need to speak up.
  • Let my public officials know how vital public transportation is. Transportation day was easy for me because of where I live. There are lots of areas where public transport is not nearly this viable an option or is completely nonexistent. It just plain needs to be given more attention in our country, and we all need to speak up.

-Karyn Alzayer

So today is when we're supposed to be looking at our transportation habits, and seeing what, if anything, we can do to make them lower-impact. Carpooling, ride-sharing, taking the bus or other public transit, cycling, walking... all good options. In looking at the Hubby's schedule and checking out the options, I realized they're somewhat limited... actually more than somewhat.

He works at a customer service call-center for a satellite tv provider, and so his mostly regular hours are subject to call flow—there have been days when they have to work overtime because the call volume is up, so carpooling or ride-sharing is out of the picture, since he doesn't want to miss his ride home, or be responsible for someone else being late getting home. It's an almost 11 mile trip from our house to his workplace, which would be an extremely long, cold walk or bike ride on the mornings when the overnight temperatures have dropped to the teens or 20s Fahrenheit—a little over three hours on foot, or an hour cycling (if he sticks to bike paths, possibly shorter if he does mainly street riding).

We'd be lowering our impact, but getting less time together... not a trade-off we're willing to make.

Since those options aren't really options, especially during the cold months here in Colorado, we looked at public transit—the bus. In order to take the bus and be able to be at his desk, logged in on his computer and ready to go by 8 o'clock, we figured an arrival time at the closest to work bus-stop by 7:45. He'd need to leave the house by 6:00 to make the first bus, and from there it would be 60 minutes before he'd be dropped off to walk the last 11 minutes of the trip—getting him to work about 45 minutes before he needs to be there... and that's the closest time we could figure that still allowed for him to not be sweating (from having to run after leaving the bus) when he arrived at work. Mind you, by car, this trip is only about 25 minutes long. We talked about what it would mean for him to take the bus; leaving the house earlier means going to bed earlier by a couple of hours—lights out no later than 10:00, and getting home later—about 7 p.m., which means he'd only have about three hours to eat, visit with family, and unwind before it's time for bed. This is not really an acceptable option for us—we'd be lowering our impact, but getting less time together... not a trade-off we're willing to make.

This is going to be one of those areas that we can't change right now... but we'll keep watching for opportunities to do so. If something changes, we'll recheck the options and possibilities. Who knows, next year, he may be using a different mode of transportation to get to work.  -Laura W. in Colorado


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So earlier today I was sitting smug with regards to today's focus on transportation, secure in my righteousness as a bus rider/sometime bike rider who hasn't owned a car since 2004. (Full disclosure, I spent the last five years in Seoul, a 1-minute walk from one of the best subway systems ever.) But a YES! Magazine article on the price of air travel reminded me that even if my daily commute is easy on the Earth, my visits to see friends and family are exceedingly not.

"A round-trip flight between New York and Los Angeles on a typical commercial jet yields an estimated 715 kilos of CO2 per economy class passenger, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization. But due to the height at which planes fly, combined with the mixture of gases and particles they emit, conventional air travel has an impact on the global climate that’s approximately 2.7 times worse than its carbon emissions alone, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As a result, that roundtrip flight’s “climatic forcing” is really 1,917 kilos, or almost two tons, of emissions—more than nine times the annual emissions of an average denizen of Haiti (as per U.S. Department of Energy figures)."

I'm a little wary of carbon offsets becoming an environmental version of the medieval Catholic indulgence system, where a donation washes away your sin and gets you back into the good graces of God or Mother Nature. Living in Hawaii means air travel is pretty much the only way to go, however, and I think of carbon offsets more as self-levied taxes rather than purchased forgiveness. So in honor of No Impact Week’s transportation day, I calculated my 2010 air travel and invested in Native Energy’s current farm methane project. -Annie Koh

Been feeling a lot of guilt but I am becoming aware at least!

I am carrying around a plastic bag with my unrecyclable, noncompostable trash. I am surprised by the amount I generate since we don't use disposable products—Foil wrappers, molded plastics, straws from juice pouches, bottle caps. I'm generating about 14 pieces a week. Also am becoming very aware of the junk mail at school and home so I will get off the lists. No reason for all these trees to be cut down. Big fail on transportation—the only thing I was able to do was watch the mpg on my Toyota Sienna and try to keep it over 22. Been feeling a lot of guilt but I am becoming aware at least! -Alana


I ride my bike or take public transit almost everywhere. I bought a scooter several years ago, it is my only motorized form of transportation. I thought I was being so eco-friendly, until I understood what a 2 stroke engine is. I feel bad when I do use it. I try not to use it except in time crunch situations.

Yesterday I rode my bike to the light rail station, due to the cold and darkness, 6 a.m. is really dark in Seattle this time of year. I rode from the light rail to work about 3 miles. I rode to my boyfriend's house after work and we hung out until later that night. I tried to catch the bus, again it is really dark out there and the road home is not well lit. I ended up getting drenched and it was very cold as well. 

I can bike most places faster or just as fast as taking a bus.

When I woke up this morning I was definitely not feeling any bicycle love at all. All I wanted to do was stay in bed where it was warm. I finally motivated myself out of bed and caught the bus. I do not tend to enjoy the bus lately, I have had too many nightmare rides in the last two months. The light rail is my new best friend, second only to my bicycle. As I was walking from the bus stop to work I realized I missed my bike. Gah, why do I make these dumb decisions to leave it at home. Sometimes I think the bus will be faster or it is too cold or wet, but the serious reality is I can bike most places faster or just as fast as taking a bus. With connection waits it takes me one hour to work by light rail or by bus or all the way by bike. I just need to suck it up and buy the gear I need to make my cold wet rides tolerable and remind myself about those moments when I regret not taking my bike.

The bike represents freedom to me. It means that no matter what I have a way to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time. I need to continually remind myself that it is completely about the ride not the destination. I love riding my bike and I miss it when I leave it at home.

My boyfriend even bought one to go riding with me last summer. We took Amtrak to Portland with the bikes and had a great bicycle adventure that I will never forget. Ahh the reminders of the joys in life outside the car. -Anonymous



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